One of today's unsung heroes of the jazz guitar, Tony Purrone got his first break at the age of 23, when he was featured with saxophonist Jimmy Heath's band. After spending 17 years with Heath, Purrone decided to break out on his own and his two appearances on SteepleChase with Heath led to his own contract with the label. Adding considerably to the legacy already established by his first two SteepleChase classics, Set 'Em Up
and In the Heath Zone
, Purrone's third effort for the label is a concept album that manages to pay homage to some of his influences while further defining his own role as a contemporary leader in his own right.
While recent history tends to lean heavily on the innovations of Django Reinhardt, Wes Montgomery, and Grant Green, there's truly a whole other world of jazz guitarists to be reckoned with. Purrone has obviously done his homework because the scope of material he has chosen reflects the rich history of the instrument, it's practitioners, and it's repertoire. All the cuts have been composed by guitarists and those represented include Django, Montgomery, Jimmy Raney, Jim Hall, George Van Eps, Pat Martino, John McLaughlin, Joe Pass, Johnny Smith, and Tal Farlow.
With chops to burn, Purrone undertakes the sprightly be-bop numbers with poise, particularly dazzling on "Gibson Boy," and "Signal." His stinging blues on Wes Montgomery's "Sundown" gives the catchy line new life. As a change of pace, John McLaughlin's "Follow Your Heart" sports a relaxed eighth-note feel with delectable string bending and tremolos a-plenty from Purrone. "Cavu" might be the most impressive track, as Purrone's guitar shouts cacophonous Middle Eastern-sounding licks over the dark Latin-tinged backing.
Pianist Harold Danko is a strong asset to the proceedings, as prolific and underrated these days as Purrone. His spot on the previously mentioned "Cavu" is concentrated and highly-charged and his technical fluency is stamped all over his take on "Gibson Boy." Up-and-comer Avishai Cohen, currently with Chick Corea's Origin band, and veteran drummer Keith Copeland lend support that's a real charm. While the tribute concept these days has got out of hand, this six- string delight lends added credence to many jazz guitarists who, like Purrone, have yet to see their fair dues.
Personnel: Tony Purrone- guitar, Harold Danko- piano, Avishai Cohen- bass, Keith Copeland- drums